Utilities failing to make use of smart grid big data

A new survey commissioned by Oracle Utilities confirms what we've all been thinking about the daily data deluge now engulfing utilities.

Dig a little deeper, however, and you'll discover some fresh insights. Many utilities are overlooking the most important way to use their data. Others have failed to take the foundational steps needed for long-term success.

Oracle's "Big Data, Bigger Opportunity" study surveyed executives at North American utilities with smart meters. It confirmed several trends we've been hearing about for the past year:

  • Data volumes are increasing dramatically
  • Utilities are making lots of investments into their information infrastructure
  • Utilities are beginning to use that data for decision support

To get beyond these obvious points, I sat down with Brad Williams, vice president of product strategy for Oracle Utilities. He cites three areas where analytics can make a big difference: operational performance, asset performance and customer performance.

Williams says the third area is most often overlooked. He defines it as using data to deliver value directly to customers. One example: providing customized recommendations on how to reduce their bills.

He describes several other ways utilities are using analytics to "gain trust with customers and better meet their mandates." For instance, some utilities are crunching the data to help them keep their infrastructure up to speed – for instance, staying a step ahead of electric vehicle and rooftop solar. Others are using it to design new and more effective incentive rate structures.

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